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Safe, Match and Reach

When considering what college to attend, the term “fit” is often used. Finding a college that best fits your needs and desired outcomes can help you decide where to apply. However, many criteria (such as major) will still provide you with an extensive list of options. One early and important way to sort this list of schools is by academic profile. You can look at the standardized test scores and percentage of students accepted as a measure of how you stack up against the students on campus. 

Organizing your college options


Likelihood of admission graph

At this stage, it is very important to make sure your list includes a variety of colleges that fit into different categories based on the likelihood that you’ll be admitted:

  • Safety – 90%+ chance of admission
  • Near Safety – 70-90% chance of admission
  • Match – 40-60% chance of admission
  • Reach – 15-40% chance of admission
  • Huge Reach – Less than 15% chance of admission

Safe Schools

A Safe school is one in which you exceed the school's range for the average first-year student. For example, you meet all the admission requirements and in the event that you are not accepted to any other institution, you will be satisfied with attending your safe school. However, before selecting your safe school, make sure you do your research. Although safe schools provide a higher chance of acceptance, if you fail to do your research you could end up at an institution that may not be the right fit for you.

Match Schools

Match schools are the schools in which you feel confident of acceptance. Not only is a match school one that you really want to attend, but you also have a high chance of acceptance because your SAT/ACT scores and academic record meets the schools acceptance criteria. Research is always beneficial. Be sure to research the schools admission requirements that you plan to apply to and try to match to your own records. Sometimes target schools might look at different aspects of the application. Confident means they might accept you because you meet basic admission requirements. However, some schools look at a well-rounded person (academically and socially) to be admitted to their institutions.

Reach Schools

Reach schools are typically the school of your dreams. For example, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, USC etc...Reach schools are the schools you need to put extra work to try and meet the admission requirements OR maybe you know you won’t be accepted but still want to try and be okay with the outcome. You might fall in the demographic that the school is looking for to round their cohorts but also be realistic; be sure to apply to safe and match schools as well. Your odds of being accepted may be small but if this is your desire then start now. Work harder to make yourself standout from the rest of applicants.

Please use the College Raptor website to help you identify your safe, match, and reach schools.

Retrieved from: College Fit: Reach, Match, and Safety Colleges Explained. (2017).